We know the story: ceremony, breakfast, evening reception, rinse and repeat. For couples looking to do something a little different, this structure can be somewhat restrictive. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. If you’re not too fussed about hosting a wedding reception or have absolutely no intention of going through the stress of planning one, you’ve come to the right place.
Your wedding is your and your partner’s day, and it can be exactly as you want it. It’s easy to get swept up in the conformity of having a ceremony followed by a big bash. Not only can this be a little overwhelming to organise, but can also be superbly expensive!
Instead, separate the traditional wedding day into two parts: the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception. This may sound a trifle obvious, but many people don’t make any distinction between the two.
But why wouldn’t you want a reception?
Probably the most common time for couples to not have a reception is if they elope. You might love the traditionalist values of marriage but dread the concept of being the centre of attention. As such, foreign nuptials make the perfect excuse for skipping out on a reception. Running off to a sunny beach destination to say your vows sounds perfect to us.
Moreover, if we’re being completely honest, large family affairs are not always a dreamy occasion. A family feud or friend groups that don’t get on could make anyone want to avoid the whole thing! If you’re not a fan of family events in general, or particularly a party that is solely dedicated to you, these are certainly reasons to skip the reception.
Furthermore, let’s not forget, weddings are notoriously expensive events. And, it’s the reception that uses the majority of the budget, so skipping it will save lots of money! Take into consideration food, entertainment and decorations, on top of the cost for venue hire, and you can see why! The wedding industry in the UK is worth over £10 billion, and a lot of this is from receptions.
Why should you have a reception anyway?
With that being said, consider your guests. Yes, it may be that you and your partner desperately want to have the legal side of a wedding and then call it quits. However, you cannot expect tens of people to dress up for your wedding and travel to your venue for just half an hour of vows. A reception is typically a thank you to your guests as much as anything. If you genuinely want only family, this might be okay. If you have a small guest list, you can invite everyone to a restaurant afterwards, perhaps, or have a BBQ in your garden. But, if you intend to have a lavish ceremony without a reception, your guests might start to feel hard-done by.
Remember that your guests will bring you gifts. This means that they are paying (in some way) for your wedding and life afterwards. Even if you request no presents, many guests will feel the need to bring them anyway. Furthermore, think about how much money each person has spent individually. They want to dress up and look nice for you, and may have to pay for travel or accommodation, so don’t be rude and leave them out of any party afterwards.
If you really do not want a reception, don’t invite any guests. By law in the UK you must have at least two witnesses, but these could be people at the registry office. Otherwise, you could elope and marry with just the two of you and a registrar. As soon as you invite people, their needs are part of your big day.
Do you legally need a reception?
Think of a reception, including food, music and entertainment, as an after-party. Once you leave your ceremony, you are legally married. Because of this, there are no laws regarding what you can and cannot include. As a result, you certainly are able to skip out on the reception altogether!
That being said, individual venues will have their own set of rules. For example, some may ban fireworks or marquees, while others won’t allow certain types of decorations. Most importantly, keep an eye out for venues that charge you to hire for an entire day. While you don’t have to resort to a registry office, many licensed venues may restrict you if you choose not to have a reception, and may charge you anyway!
What wedding venues can host my ceremony?
Firstly, do you want a religious service or a civil ceremony? Take a peek at this article if you are struggling to decide between the two.
If you are dead-set on marrying in a church or temple, then it’s as simple as that. You should be aware that you probably cannot drink alcohol on church premises (ask the clergyman), so a clinking of bubbly to celebrate your wedding in the churchyard may be out of the question.
It’s also good to note that some churches require you or you partner to be a member of the parish. Be sure to check that out before setting your heart on the quaint little chapel in a neighbouring town.
On the other hand, if you are looking to have a civil ceremony, there is a little more to it. However, as more couples are choosing civil ceremonies, options are far more open than a decade ago.
First of all, you need to find a venue that holds the appropriate licence to conduct marriages. Hotels often have a civil ceremony and partnership licence in a number of suites. This can be a great budget option for fuss-free ceremonies. Stately country houses often have indoor and outdoor ceremony licenced rooms for majestic vows. They may not accommodate ceremonies only however, so it’s worth checking if you have to host a reception also. Barn venues quite often hold civil ceremony licences if you’re dreaming of a rustic ceremony on a farm in the countryside. This might be a great option before a casual hog roast.
Can I host an alternative wedding reception?
Many couples are now looking for something other than the dinner and a DJ format. For example, you could take your guests to a restaurant, have tea and cake in the village hall, even have a show! There are so many options to consider in order to make your after-wedding special for you as a couple and for your guests.
A reception needn’t be a big affair. Originally, the wedding breakfast was for the wedding party, while the bride and groom left at midday on holiday. An evening reception wasn’t a common thing until much later. Therefore, you could have a really low-key reception instead of ignoring one completely. Have a picnic with your closest friends and family after the ceremony, or go back to your house and turn up the music. You could do something completely original and go to the cinema to watch a film. There are no rules as to what your reception has to include, so do what you want to, and enjoy it.
In the end, you shouldn’t have any problem finding an appropriately-licensed venue that will provide a room to host just your ceremony, so get out there and start looking. Have a browse around our site for more ideas on finding inspirational wedding venues.